Alden Pyle is a representative of the economic department of the American Embassy in Saigon, an antagonist of Fowler, another hero of the novel. Being a generalized depiction of quite concrete political forces and methods of struggle in the world arena, the figure of O. P. carries a deeper and broader meaning. Before us is a fairly familiar type of human behavior, formed precisely in the twentieth century, in the era of acute ideological confrontation between states and systems, when the ideological conviction of a person who is incapable of thinking independently and critically turns into a kind of programmed judgments and actions on the mental level, to conclude the complexity of human relations in already ready frameworks and schemes. For OP there is nothing individual, private, unique.
Thomas Fowler is an English journalist working in South Vietnam in 1951-1955. Tired, emotionally devastated man, in many respects similar to Skobi – the hero of another novel by Graham Greene – “The essence of the matter.” He believes that his duty is to report only facts to the newspapers, his assessment does not concern him, he does not want to interfere in anything, he wants to remain a neutral observer. In Saigon T. F. long ago, and the only thing that he cherishes, what keeps him there, is the love of the Vietnamese girl Fu-ong. But there is an American Alden Pyle, who leads Fuong. The novel begins with the murder of Paile and with the fact that Fuong returns to TF. But then retrospection goes on. The police are looking for a criminal, and at the same time, TF recalls Pyle: he saved him during the attack of Vietnamese guerrillas, literally taking him to a safe place, risking his own life. As if a good deed? Pyle annoys TF with his ideas, his peremptory behavior, bordering on fanaticism. Having learned at last that the explosion in the square, arranged by the Americans, which resulted in the death of women and children, the work of Pyle, TF can not stand it and passes it into the hands of the Vietnamese partisans: “You would look at him… He stood there and said that all this sad misunderstanding that a parade was to be held… There, in the square, one woman was killed by a woman… She covered it with a straw hat. ” After Pyle’s death, FT’s fate somehow settles by itself: he remains in Vietnam – “this honest country,” where poverty is not covered by bashful covers; a woman who had once easily left him for Pyle, with the same naturalness of benefit, comes easily and sadly back now.